Kory Floyd, a professor of communications at ASU, has done some incredibly interesting research on the effects of communicating affection. He says that “affection can be a simple, non-pharmaceutical, cheap way to reduce stress.”

This research was a collaboration of professors in kinesiology, psychology, and nursing who measured the effects that affection had on stress. They took a group of people and increased their stress (which resulted in increased blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol). Then they divided the groups into three: one group wrote an affectionate letter to a loved one, the other just thought about people they love and why they love them, and the last group just sat quietly. The last two groups’ stress levels remained the same or even increased… but the group that actually expressed affection dropped sharply.

Researchers have known that oxytocin is a chemical that our bodies release during affectionate touch and it can combat stress hormones and lower blood pressure.  But Kory found that affectionate words also release oxytocin in both the sender and the receiver (if the receiver cares about the person who sent it). Even people who aren’t naturally affectionate can reap the health benefits of affectionate communication.

I read about this several years ago and decided to implement this practice into my own stress management. Whenever work gets stressful, I’ll take a 5 minute break to send a quick text/email to a friend and tell them what I love about them. I’m convinced it works.

So the next time life feels too overwhelming, take five minutes and send some e-affection to a friend. It will not only generate a little oxytocin hit for both of you (and reduce stress), but you will also intentionally strength your connection.


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